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Strategies for School Equity

Strategies for School Equity: Creating Productive Schools in a Just Society

Edited by Marilyn J. Gittell
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Strategies for School Equity
    Book Description:

    In the pursuit of a first-rate education for all students, America's public schools have struggled to achieve fuller racial integration and higher academic standards. Yet sharp inequities between prosperous school districts and poorer districts remain, reinforced by traditional ways of funding and administering public education. This book brings together cutting-edge ideas and strategies of prominent advocates of school equity reform. Discussing their first-hand experiences in forming coalitions, framing court cases, and dealing with state politics in New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, and Washington, the contributors consider what succeeded, and what failed, in the search for financial and legal remedies to educational inequity.The varied case studies of this book underscore the importance of a comprehensive approach-combining finance, restructuring, and governance reforms-for the success of a city or state school reform effort. The authors investigate how state constitutions have been used to challenge a state's financial distribution of school aid, how business and community organizations have engaged in reform efforts, and how others have negotiated legislation to achieve change. This discussion of reform strategies will interest not only those who are concerned with excellence and equity in education but also those who wish to form successful coalitions and challenge existing state policies.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14654-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Alison Bernstein

    History, above all other disciplines, has an insistent way of reminding us where we have been as a nation and, if we are wise about understanding the various streams of history, where we might be going. The history of the universal public education system is a little more than 150 years old, and it is full of turning points and paradoxes. No other nation on earth has been more committed to providing free and effective primary and secondary school education for all its children, but the United States has also produced a legacy of unequal and inadequate schooling, especially for...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Marilyn Gittell
  5. Introduction: The Ends and the Means in Education Policy
    (pp. 1-6)
    Marilyn Gittell and Laura McKenna

    The demand for educational reform has been growing as the need for an educated workforce has increased, as the number of low-skill jobs has diminished, as inequities have expanded, and as inefficiencies and scandals have been exposed. In every recent election, candidates have put forth their vision of how to reform a system that is obviously inefficient and unfair in distributing its resources. Almost everyone, regardless of ideology, feels that the current system requires reform whether the solution takes the form of finance reform, charter schools, governance reform, or vouchers. Creating an excellent and equitable public education system has become...

  6. Part One Constitutional Issues and Legal Reform

    • [Part One Introduction]
      (pp. 7-10)

      Financial inequities in education have been challenged in state supreme courts since 1971, commencing with California’sSerrano v. Priest. Many state constitutions contain provisions for the public education of children requiring that all children be provided with an equal and adequate education. Constitutional requirements typically state that education must be provided in a “free,” “uniform,” “efficient,” “thorough,” “ample,” or “basic” way (see John Augenblick’s chapter). Although most cases brought in the 1970s sought to address only financial inequality under states’ equal protection clauses, more recent cases have used the same constitutional requirements to challenge other inequities (i.e., facilities, equipment, teaching)...

    • Chapter 1 Post-Brown School Finance Reform
      (pp. 11-23)
      Kirk Vandersall

      State courts have been the central battleground in the struggle to achieve educational equity. Convinced that reducing dramatic inequities in educational resources and achievement was vitally important to creating real equality of opportunity, reformers first sought relief in Congress. The states, however, have primary authority over elementary and secondary education, and the struggle quickly focused on them. Advocates first challenged state finance systems under the federal Constitution’s equal protection clause but were roundly defeated. They next turned to state constitutional challenges and began a series of successful suits under state equal protection clauses. After the ascendance of the excellence movement...

    • Chapter 2 School Finance Reform and the Alabama Experience
      (pp. 24-39)
      Helen Hershkoff

      In communities across the country, parents are increasingly going to court to enforce their children’s state constitutional right to education.¹ Many of these lawsuits claim that public schools have insufficient resources to provide their students with even a minimally adequate education. Conditions in the children’s schools are often bleak: dilapidated and unsafe buildings, dirty and poorly maintained facilities, and widespread deficiencies of essential resources such as textbooks and equipment. Moreover, such schools are said to have low expectations of their students’ ability to succeed, and standardized test scores and other conventional measures of learning are frequently unacceptably low.²

      In response...

    • Chapter 3 Intradistrict Resource Disparities: A Problem Crying Out for a Solution
      (pp. 40-52)
      Peter D. Roos

      In 1954,Brown v. Board of Educationinitiated an era of hope that educational disadvantage suffered by students of color would be overcome by breaking down segregation in our schools. Significant inroads were made in dismantling black-white segregation in the South, and cases were won in the North and the West that led to integration orders on behalf of Latino pupils, as well as African Americans. Yet today, four decades afterBrown, few blacks and even fewer Latinos see desegregation as the panacea it was considered in 1954. A number of factors have led to this judgment, including demographics and...

    • Chapter 4 More Than Equal: New Jerseyʹs Quality Education Act
      (pp. 53-69)
      Thomas Corcoran and Nathan Scovronick

      Policy makers in many states have been struggling to find more equitable methods to finance their public schools. They have been forced to address this difficult issue by state courts. Some of the recent court decisions have required more than the reduction of funding disparities among districts. They have demanded that legislatures act to ensure educational adequacy and improved school quality. In Alabama and Kentucky, entire systems of education, not just the funding formulas, were declared unconstitutional. Other states have been ordered to provide students with higher levels of skill or to give them the comprehensive education necessary to prepare...

    • APPENDIX TO PART ONE: The Courts and Equity: A State-by-State Overview
      (pp. 70-84)
  7. Part Two The Political Agenda of Education in the States

    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 85-88)

      Analysis of education reform necessarily must focus on state politics. The states ultimately are legally responsible for education and provide 50 percent or more of funding. A locally centered school district government structure also provides the additional cost of education from local property taxes. Historically, the federal government has never contributed more than 10 percent of the total funds for education, and those funds were directed to compensatory categorical programs. The states’ central role in the legal structure of education results in litigation directed at state constitutional provisions.

      Several legal scholars and activists believe that federal intervention is necessary to...

    • Chapter 5 The Role of State Legislatures in School Finance Reform: Looking Backward and Looking Ahead
      (pp. 89-100)
      John Augenblick

      State legislatures play an important role in school finance. In part this is because, on average, states provide the largest share of all support for schools, about half of all current operating revenues. Also, regardless of what proportion of support is provided in a particular state (and there is some variation across states), legislatures are responsible for creating the procedures used to allocate state aid to school districts and for controlling, directly or indirectly, both the extent to which localities can generate funds for public schools and the ways school districts can spend their funds. In addition, it is the...

    • Chapter 6 Steady Work: The Courts and School Finance Reform in New Jersey
      (pp. 101-114)
      Margaret E. Goertz

      On July 12, 1994, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down its third decision in the school finance caseAbbott v. Burke. This decision was the ninth state supreme court ruling in twenty-four years of school finance litigation in New Jersey.¹ In the intervening years, the state legislature enacted (and amended) two major school funding laws and increased state aid for education fivefold. Has intervention by the court made a difference? The answer to this question is both yes and no. The court has made four positive contributions to school finance policy in New Jersey. First, the court has established...

    • Chapter 7 Charter Schools and Tax Reform in Michigan
      (pp. 115-130)
      Thomas Vitullo-Martin

      The Michigan Public School Academy Act of 1993 (PA 362), when considered with the school finance reform passed as a companion bill, set in motion the most far-reaching, egalitarian restructuring of public education in any state in the latter half of the twentieth century. The magnitude of the change, not widely understood when the law was passed, is only gradually revealing itself as the law takes effect. It has astonished many observers that such a change could come from the nation’s staunchest union state and could erupt seemingly from nowhere. The law passed in November and December 1993 had not...

  8. Part Three Stakeholders in Equity Reform

    • [Part Three Introduction]
      (pp. 131-134)

      There are many stakeholders in the education process; all have a vested interest in education policy outcomes. They include state and local professionals, such as superintendents, commissioners, and school administrators; teachers and their unions; mayors; governors and other elected state and city officials, especially legislative committee and budget chairs; civic-style education interest groups; parents and their associations; students and community activists; the media; business leaders; and foundations. All of these groups have an interests in the reform process, and cooperation among them is essential to achieving change. The business community in most cities and states has been an important collaborator...

    • Chapter 8 Necessary but Not Sufficient: Moving from School Finance Reform to Education Reform in Washington State
      (pp. 135-146)
      Martha Darling

      Since the 1970s, school finance reform has been an important component of state-level efforts to achieve educational equity for children. Legal challenges to state school financing systems have largely focused on substantial district-to-district disparities in per-pupil aggregate expenditures, and court-ordered remedies have had the limited goals of increasing the state’s share of local school funding and equalizing its contribution statewide.

      It should not be surprising that the narrow pursuit of enhanced revenues for schools in the name of interdistrict equity does not always find favor in the business community. For business leaders, finance reform does not automatically suggest qualitative improvement...

    • Chapter 9 School Reform in New York and Chicago: Revisiting the Ecology of Local Games
      (pp. 147-162)
      Marilyn Gittell

      School reform efforts in New York City in 1967 and in Chicago in 1989 provide a laboratory for the comparative study of regime politics in education. Using Long’s local game theory, this analysis reveals significant differences in the two city cultures. Differences in the outcomes of the reform efforts can be explained as a product of the ability of city stakeholders to coalesce and advance their interests at the state level.

      For two decades, studies of power in American cities have focused on the issue of economic growth. Macroeconomic analysis was substituted for micropolitical and policy analysis, and cities, not...

    • Chapter 10 Linking Civic Capacity and Human Capital Formation
      (pp. 163-176)
      Clarence N. Stone

      This chapter reports on an ongoing study of “civic capacity and urban education” in eleven cities.¹ It first explains why the focus of the study is human capital rather than schooling more narrowly understood. Next, it explores the meaning of civic capacity and its aptness as a core concept in an examination of the contemporary politics of urban educational reform. Finally, it presents some preliminary findings.

      Schools cannot do it alone. This is the growing consensus among those concerned with improving urban education in America. Schools, of course, have the front-line responsibility for enabling their students to assume a productive...

  9. Part Four Engaging the Community

    • [Part Four Introduction]
      (pp. 177-180)

      Community organizations have played a key role in education reform in recent years, not only in broadening participation in this area of public policy but also in providing strategic advantages for reformers. Part IV describes the significant efforts of particular community organizations that have been instrumental in state education reform, including the Prichard Committee in Kentucky, Designs for Change (DFC) in Chicago, and the Intercultural Development Research Association in Texas. The authors, all leaders in these organizations, have actively participated in reform efforts in their states. Their experiences point to the importance of community groups in educating the public, organizing...

    • Chapter 11 Power and Perseverance: Organizing for Change in Texas
      (pp. 181-199)
      Albert Cortez

      A recentNew York Timesarticle chronicling the history of school finance in the United States focused on the long-standing battles for school funding equalization in Texas. Today, the funding system is attempting to remain stable after a twenty-year state court battle, and no immediate end to the conflict is in sight. For three decades, a group of school funding reform advocates has led the battle for equalization in Texas, among them the author of this chapter.

      The major obstacles to school funding reform encountered by community-based advocates have changed over time. They have included:

      the lack of general public...

    • Chapter 12 The Prichard Committee and Kentucky School Reform
      (pp. 200-209)
      Robert F. Sexton

      “Reform won’t work unless it has legs” is organizer Anne Hallett’s succinct metaphor for the value of citizens in school reform. Those legs, I explain here, must carry reform from public frustration to legislation, and then from legislation to the classroom. They must step across political transitions and election cycles, be prepared for a long march rather than a sprint, and scurry around keeping troops informed and focused.¹

      The organization I represent, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, is one example of mobilized citizens being the legs for reform. In this chapter I talk about our strategies for encouraging reform...

    • Chapter 13 Advocacy to Restructure the Chicago Public Schools Through State Legislation
      (pp. 210-229)
      Donald R. Moore

      In December 1988, the Chicago school system was fundamentally restructured through state law by rewriting the section of the Illinois School Code that applies only to Chicago. Stanford political scientist Michael Kirst concluded that “this is the biggest change in American school control since the 1900s…. It is the most drastic change in any school system I can think of. It is absolutely precedent-breaking” (Wilkerson, 1989).

      A coalition of parent, community, citywide advocacy, and business organizations has played a key leadership role not only in securing the passage of this law but also in pressing for its implementation. This chapter...

  10. Conclusion: Creating a School Reform Agenda for the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 230-240)
    Marilyn Gittell

    Demands for school reform have become a constant in American life and include three broad categories of concern: governance, teaching and learning, and finance. Seldom are these issues joined, although they are clearly interdependent, and only together do they offer the opportunity to change the way schools function. The failure to integrate reform demands reflects the dominance of the agenda by school professionals, who are the most active and influential stakeholders in the process. Almost half a century ago one of the most astute early analysts of school politics, Robert Conant, described the power of professional school elites as a...

  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 241-244)
  12. Index
    (pp. 245-257)